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Information, Female Empowerment and Governance in Oaxaca, Mexico

Feb 2015
Working Paper
Alberto Díaz-Cayeros, Beatriz Magaloni, Alexander Ruiz-Euler
Traditional community rules are formally recognized in multiple constitutions across Latin America. Scholars debate the extent to which these practices conform to broader principles of  gender equality. A unique institutional feature in the impoverished state of Oaxaca, Mexico, divides municipalities into traditional and party-based governance. We exploit this feature with original survey data and find that rates of female participation in traditional communities are not different when compared to non-traditional ones. We also conduct a survey experiment to explore how perceptions about female leadership change with factual information about female mayors. We find the strongest demonstration effect on women recipient of the conditional cash-transfer program Oportunidades. Our evidence suggests overall that traditional governance is not a relevant dimension to understand female disempowerment, and that entrenched discriminatory practices against women (which exist but are not inherent to traditional rule) are sensitive to community bargains and well-designed policy.
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